What is a Holistic Dentist?
May 01, 2020
Holistic Dentistry Explained.
As a comprehensive care dental practice offering holistic-focused care, we often hear questions like:
- What is a holistic dentist?
- Why is holistic dental care important?
- How can I find a holistic dentist near me?
In this post, we will answer these questions by explaining how holistic dentistry differs from traditional dentistry, why holistic dental care is important for both prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and how you can find a holistic dentist in your area.
More focused on a cosmetic issue and don’t think this will apply? Don’t worry! We use the same focus on health and safe materials in our cosmetic dentistry services in order to keep your smile and body healthy.
What is holistic dentistry?
Holistic dentistry, which is also known as biological dentistry or integrative dentistry, focuses on the integral role that oral health plays in a patient’s overall health. Instead of relying solely on conventional methods, holistic dentistry also incorporates natural or alternative treatment options into plans for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This whole-body approach focuses on the cause-and-effect relationship that exists between the oral health of patients and their overall health.
Fearful of dental work? Learn about how we can use sedation dentistry.
What is the connection between oral health and overall health?
You may be surprised by just how much your oral health is linked to your overall health. This is because your mouth is an entry point for bacteria and infections to be introduced into the bloodstream, which can result in many health issues and chronic diseases.
When your holistic dentist evaluates your dental health, they will take into account any inflammation that may be negatively impacting your overall well-being, including gum disease like gingivitis and periodontitis as well as sources of chronic bacterial infections like abscessed teeth and failed root canals. The inflammation caused by these issues can be linked to a variety of health problems.
In fact, poor dental health has been found to contribute to a wide range of serious health issues including cardiovascular disease, elevated blood pressure, increased heart attack and stroke risk, low birth weight and/or premature birth in pregnant women, and difficulty controlling diabetes.
Your dental health can also provide your dentist with valuable clues about potential overall health problems, with conditions like HIV, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis commonly affecting oral health. Some other conditions that can be linked with oral health include rheumatoid arthritis, cancers of the head and neck, Sjogren’s syndrome, eating disorders, and even depression!
How does holistic dental care differ from traditional dental care?
Similarly to traditional dentists, holistic dentists perform routine teeth cleanings, repair damaged or decayed teeth, replace missing teeth, and create treatment plans when needs arise. However, when approaching these practices, holistic dental practitioners aim to treat causes of problems rather than just the symptoms. They do this by taking the overall health, mental well-being, emotional health, lifestyle, and diet of their patients into consideration, while also treating the patient using the safest materials as possible.
Risk factors of traditional dentistry
There are multiple risks associated with traditional dentistry that holistic dentists avoid when treating patients. Some of the traditional treatments that pose overall health risks for patients include the use of mercury in amalgam fillings, overuse of fluoride, root canals, BPA in composite fillings, and many additionally concerning materials and chemicals used in various procedures. Unlike traditional dentists, holistic dentists take into account the risk factors for a patient’s overall health when providing treatment, and sometimes use alternative treatment options that do not pose the health risks of conventional treatment options when the patient agrees that is the direction of care they desire.
About 50 percent of traditional dentists in the United States still use mercury-containing dental amalgam in their practices. Most of us know amalgam as “silver fillings” but contrary to popular opinion, amalgam is NOT made up mostly of silver, but rather from an alloy of metals containing 43 to 50 percent mercury. Mercury, a known neurotoxin, poses a variety of risk factors for the health of patients and dental workers, as well as the environment. It is especially dangerous when used in vulnerable populations including young children and pregnant women.
Additionally, amalgam can actually weaken a tooth overtime. This is often displayed by cracks or fractures that form in these teeth which often lead to a cusp breaking off and a crown or extraction being required.
Although in the past it was thought that the toxic mercury was safely contained in the amalgam filling, more recent studies have shown that when individuals with amalgam fillings chew, their fillings actually emit low levels of mercury vapors that are then absorbed into the body. Mercury has been shown to be toxic, even in low levels of exposure, which can be especially dangerous for individuals with other mercury exposures or for dental professionals who are regularly exposed to this toxin.
Instead of relying on this harmful and toxic material, holistic dentists opt for other filling materials that are more effective, like resin composites that are BPA-free.
What if I already have mercury fillings?
It’s common for people who have had dental work in the past to be concerned about the mercury that is in their mouth. Fortunately, there are procedures available to safely remove these fillings and replace them with a biocompatible option. During the mercury removal process, a strict protocol is adhered to in order to ensure the safety of the patient, doctor, and dental staff. This protocol involves the use of a HEPA filter placed near the mouth to suction off any vapors released, a rubber dam to prevent materials from getting into the mouth, copious irrigation and suction, covering of the patient’s body and clothing, an oxygen source for the patient to breath, and antioxidant support with liposomal vitamin C and GI support with activated charcoal.
Biocompatibility testing & the use of non-toxic materials
When it comes to choosing dental materials that will be used for fillings, dental implants, or other common dental procedures, a holistic dentist may perform a biocompatibility test in order to discover which materials are the most biologically compatible with your body as a whole.
To test biocompatibility, your dentist will request blood work, which will then be sent to a lab for analysis against a variety of dental materials. After analysis, the lab will rank the materials based on their compatibility with your body, so that you can avoid materials that may cause an adverse reaction and make an informed decision about which materials will have the least impact on your overall health.
If you are concerned about the use of metal or titanium materials used in traditional implants, your holistic dentist may suggest the use of zirconia implants, which do not have the potential side effects associated with the use of metals.
Anyone who has been to a traditional dental practice knows the importance placed on fluoride for the prevention of cavities. However, holistic dentists consider the overall health risks of fluoride—especially in ingestible forms—noting potential links to cancer and bone problems, as well as negligible benefits from ingestion.
In fact, too much fluoride can actually lead to fluorosis or discolored enamel. Although some holistic dentists agree with the use of topical fluoride treatments, some choose to avoid potential risks by avoiding it altogether.
When it comes to prevention, your holistic dentist will most likely recommend an anti-cavity toothpaste and other dental care products that are highly effective in preventing decay, yet free of fluoride. A great option is CariFree CTx3 toothpaste which contains nano-hydroxyapatite to rebuild enamel, a high pH to resist the acidic environment needed to form cavities, and xylitol to prevent bacterial activity that leads to tooth decay. Oral probiotics are another wonderful preventative option as they work to rebalance the oral biome and minimize the destructive activity of cavity causing bacteria.
When it comes to the use of x-rays, many patients understandably worry about their exposure to radiation. However, the benefits of detecting cavities and infections early on are worth the exposure in most instances. When x-rays are necessary to detect potential issues that are not visible to the naked eye, your holistic dentist should take the minimum number of images needed to accurately diagnose any potential issues and opt for digital x-ray imaging, which drastically decreases the amount of radiation exposure.
Although a traditional root canal may be the quickest and most effective fix for tooth pain or infection, it is not always the best option for every patient. Even when treated, root canalled teeth sometimes remain infected and harbor bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and lead to a variety of health issues.
A holistic dentist considers these risks as well as the patient’s dental health, overall health, and immune system when deciding on whether or not to perform a root canal, which could incorporate the use of ozone gas or water or different filling materials than standard root canals.
They may also use 3-D imaging if they are concerned about an infection or abscess to pinpoint if there is a need for extraction or a root canal. If after evaluating your overall health your holistic dentist does not think that a root canal will be the safest treatment choice, they will most likely propose an extraction as a safer alternative. The tooth may then be replaced with an implant, bridge, or partial denture if a patient so desires.
Holistic dentistry and gum disease
Periodontitis, or gum disease, is a particular focus for the holistic dental community. More than anything else in the oral health field, gum disease has been linked to an increased risk in a staggering number of medical issues. Most commonly-cited among these is cardiovascular disease,heart attacks, and stroke, but it can also increase risk of hypertension and even the chance of a miscarriage.
There are many stages of gum disease. Most cases are mild but, without treatment, can get worse over time. Symptoms at the beginning may be gums that just bleed a little with no pain or discomfort. However, as periodontal disease becomes more severe, the inflammation will cause bone loss, more noticeable bleeding, and potential tooth loss.
When a patient comes in with gum disease, holistic dental practices will create a multi-step plan to treat and manage it. The first step will be to stop the infection that creates bleeding gums and get them back to a healthy state. This is done through a combination of professional ultrasonic instrumentation, use of ozone gas and water, and specifically chosen rinses, essential oils, and homeopathic options. Following initial treatment, a customized preventative maintenance plan will be created to preserve continued oral health for the long term.
Holistic dentistry & oral surgery
Whether you are having wisdom teeth removed, an infected tooth extracted, getting an implant, or having a dental cavitation treated, it is important that your dentist considers the effects that the procedure will have on your body as a whole. Since holistic dentistry takes into consideration the effects of dental health on overall health, your holistic dentist will most likely employ the use of some alternative treatments and therapies when you undergo surgery to ensure the best overall outcome. Two commonly used techniques include ozone therapy and the use of platelet-rich fibrin.
Ozone therapy is commonly utilized by holistic dentists when treating infected teeth, during surgical procedures, or performing root canals to decrease the number of bacteria present in the tooth or surgical site. Since it is both antibacterial and antifungal in nature, ozone gas is a highly effective method for cleansing and reducing the risk of infection.
If you are having a tooth removed or a grafting procedure, your holistic dentist may also use platelet-rich fibrin (PRF) to assist in the quality and speed of healing following your surgery. This procedure involves drawing blood from the patient before the surgery, which is then centrifuged to form PRF. The PRF can then be placed back into the surgical site. The use of PRF has been found to have a number of benefits including a decreased risk of infection, minimizing pain following surgery, and an accelerated healing time.
The importance of holistic dentistry for children
Since children are especially vulnerable to the use of harmful chemicals used in traditional dental practices, such as dental amalgam and fluoride, it is important to find a dentist that will focus on your child’s overall health and wellness when providing dental care. In fact, the dental care that your children receive while they are young can affect their overall health for years to come, which is why it is so important to choose a provider that has their long-term well-being in mind.
A holistic dentist will focus on using conservative and minimally invasive treatment options, keeping the emotional and physical health of your child in mind. They will also avoid the use of potentially hazardous materials when creating treatment plans and rely on the use of non-toxic materials when treating cavities and infected teeth.
X-rays play an important role in identifying tooth decay, and treating it before it becomes an issue. However, holistic pediatric dentists weigh both the risks and benefits of x-rays before recommending them in order to minimize your child’s exposure to radiation. Although x-rays may be the only way to detect tooth decay in certain circumstances, holistic dentists may opt to avoid x-rays by inspecting baby teeth with transillumination, that can expose tooth decay with a bright light. They will also consider your child’s previous medical history and issues with tooth decay to decide if the benefits of an x-ray outweigh the risks. Holistic dentists also tend to opt for digital x-rays, which minimize radiation exposure.
Perhaps the most important aspect of pediatric care is to monitor the growth and development of the child and ensure that no habits, lip or tongue ties, or dental problems lead to increased risk for breathing problems and apnea down the road. Orthodontics or appliances to better position teeth and widen narrow jaws, laser release of tongue and lip ties, and myofunctional therapy are all treatment considerations that your holistic dentist might discuss regarding your child’s care.
How to find a holistic dentist near me
The number of biological dentists has increased in recent years, as patients increasingly recognize the connection between oral health and their overall health and seek out dental care that takes this into account.
If you are looking for a holistic dentist in your area, we suggest using the Holistic Dental Association’s “Find a Holistic Dentist” tool or the IAOMT’s search tool which allow users to search by state or region.
Looking for a holistic dentist in Nashville or Franklin, TN?
Dr. Ryan Jones and the Nashville Restorative Dentistry team are here to provide you with excellence in all aspects of dental care. They provide mercury and metal-free dentistry, fluoride-free cleaning appointments, zirconia dental implants, and many other whole health-focused dental services. Contact our family dentist office today to learn more about our holistic dentistry services in Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, and the surrounding area.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment or ask us any questions, we’d be pleased to serve you.